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Developing social infrastructure before disaster strikes




A fireman puts out a fire in a home at an Anaheim Hills neighborhood in Anaheim on Oct. 9, 2017, after a fire spread quickly through the area prompting mandatory evacuations and freeway closures.
A fireman puts out a fire in a home at an Anaheim Hills neighborhood in Anaheim on Oct. 9, 2017, after a fire spread quickly through the area prompting mandatory evacuations and freeway closures.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait is part of something called the Mayor Exchange Program, which recently brought him to Puerto Rico. The island is still recovering from a massive hurricane that swept through the area last September.

One month later, Anaheim had its own disaster to deal with as a massive wildfire swept through the city, burning 7,500 acres and damaging or destroying two dozen homes. Here's what Tait learned about disaster response and recover from visiting the devastated island.

Cultivating a culture of kindness

Something we've been working on since I've been mayor is creating a culture of kindness, which is about bringing people together through neighborhoods and kind acts and developing a sense of community. Neighbors helping one another during and after the disaster.

Social infrastructure

We have more challenges here in So Cal. A lot of it is we're designed mostly around the automobile. It's not conducive for people sitting in their front yards and getting to know their neighbors for when bad things happen. There's just not enough emergency personnel to go around. It's important to know there's a doctor ten doors down, a nurse two doors down or someone with a construction company who has tools to help people get out of their collapsed home. If those things are  happening after the disaster, we're in trouble. Social infrastructure needs to happen before the disaster. If we're connected we can all get through it together. It's this idea of strength through unity.

You can never be too prepared

In Puerto Rico, they thought they were pretty prepared. With hurricanes, you have an idea they're coming. They said they were nowhere near prepared enough. This idea is being prepared for the unexpected. We talk about 72 hours of water and food. In reality, it needs to be maybe 30 days' worth if we had a big earthquake. As far as supplies, they had less than half what they needed.